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Zimbabwe Mayors Accuse Minister Of Meddling In Municipal Politics

As Zimbabwe's national political leaders wrangle for control of key ministries in a unity government that is having trouble coming together, local officials of the Movement for Democratic Change are accusing the incumbent minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo, of meddling in municipal affairs in Harare, the capital, Mutare.

The Harare and Mutare city councils are controlled by the former opposition MDC, whose combined formations have a majority in the lower house of parliament and whose founder, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been designated prime minister but has yet to be sworn in.

Chombo is a stalwart of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF, of President Robert Mugabe.

MDC sources said Chombo called Mutare Mayor Brian James on Tuesday and ordered him to seat representatives of special interest groups – all of whom are ZANU-PF politicians who were defeated in March general elections. Chombo is said to have warned James he would be removed if he refused to seat the so-called special interest representatives.

Neither James nor Deputy Mayor Admire Mukorera could be reached by VOA. Mutare City Council staff said they were both locked in a meeting.

Chombo is also said to have recently reversed a decision by Harare City Council to reinstate city employees fired by the former Harare Commission managed by Sekesai Makwavarara, a controversial ZANU-PF appointee. They included housing director Numero Mubaiwa, city treasurer Misheck Mubvumbi and engineering director Christopher Zvobgo.

Makwavarara's commission, put in place in 2004 after the MDC-controlled city council was removed by the ZANU-PF central government, said the former employees had performed poorly, but courts eventually ruled they had been wrongfully fired.

MDC-controlled councils across Zimbabwe have been besieged by supposed representatives of special interests, particularly rural councils where they exercise voting rights. They are appointed by district administrators who are predominantly ZANU-PF loyalists.

Traditionally the special interest representatives seated on rural district councils or city councils speak for disadvantaged groups such as the handicapped.

Attempts to reach Chombo on his mobile phone for comment were unsuccessful.

Local Government Secretary Sesil Zvidzai of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party is now mobilizing urban residents to stand up against the alleged interference by Chombo.

Elsewhere, the newly elected mayor of Marondera, Mashonaland East province, said Tuesday that he was in fear for his life following a second abduction attempt by suspected state security agents.

Mayor Farai Nyandoro said Marondera lawmaker Ian Kay and MDC security agents thwarted the latest abduction attempt on Saturday following the Marondera Agricultural Show.

Nyandoro, a member of the Tsvangirai MDC formation, told reporter Carole Gombakomba that he is disappointed at continued threats against his party members who assumed they would no longer face political violence with a power-sharing pact in place.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...